Tag Archives: writing

cARtOONSdAY: “Research”


I am a writer. /

Thank you for asking, Bear. /

Dog and broom were mum.



#haiku #poem #poetry #june #tuesday #writer #bear #broom #dog #2020

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Poem and photo: “First draft”

First draft

‪“Guess what?”‬

‪“Chicken butt.”‬

‪He fell over into the rut.‬

‪“How high?”‬

‪“A baby’s cry?”‬

‪He gave me the quizzical eye.‬

‪“Knock. Knock.”‬

‪“You’re a smelly old sock.”‬

‪He looked at me like my head’s down the block.‬

‪“Bye bye.”‬

‪“Here’s mud in your eye.”‬

‪He shook his head and tried to fly.‬



#poem #humorous #writing #firstdraft #chicken #butt

#mud #humor #poetry #may #wednesday #davidebooker #2020 #sock


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Haiku to you Thursday: “Writer”

Writer, noun, living. /

Writer, verb, conveying life. /

Writer, now, writing.

Clock with word Writer in it

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The Six Morning Routines that Will Make You Happier, Healthier and More Productive

Start your morning off right with these simple but effective routines.

Scott Young


Of all the different things you can try to improve your productivity, a morning routine is one of the most effective.

There are a few reasons why morning routines are so useful. The first is obvious to anyone who has ever procrastinated, just getting started is often the hardest part. If you can start out with the right momentum towards your goals, you’ll avoid wrestling with yourself in the morning to get started.

The second is that the morning, particularly before the workday officially begins, is a quiet time with fewer social obligations. For many of us, the rest of the day can present a chaotic, ever-changing blast of responsibilities, urgent errands and unexpected interruptions. The morning, in contrast, is often the most consistent part of your day.

Morning routines also set the tone for your upcoming day. Do you want your workday to begin quiet and contemplative? With vigorous exercise? Silent meditation? Creative and productive? Your morning habit can push you along a current which will carry throughout the morning and allow you to maximize whatever aspect of your personality you want to be most important.

In this article, I’d like to explore a few different morning routines you can try. But first, let’s talk about what comes before the morning ritual: sleep.

When Should You Wake Up? How Much Sleep Should You Get?

Photo by Tom Leishman on Pexels.com

When you talk about productivity, there seems to be two camps. Some argue in favor of waking up extremely early to maximize those early-morning hours. Others say getting enough sleep needs to be the priority. If you can’t go to bed by 8pm, you should wake up only after you’ve gotten 7-8 hours of sleep.

I believe the scientific case is fairly clear: when it comes to productivity, getting enough sleep is essential.

A lack of sleep causes enormous cognitive declines, it impacts your ability to form memories, and may even increase the risk of certain diseases (including cancer). Research indicates that 7-8 hours per day is a nearly universal requirement, so those who claim to get by on four or six hours per night might be kidding themselves.

Worse, the cognitive impairment of a lack of sleep can accumulate, even if you think it has leveled off. Any morning routine you develop needs to accommodate your sleeping rhythms.

Key Lesson: Your morning routine should allow you enough sleep. Pick a time you can wake up consistently and also get 7-8 hours of sleep on a normal night.

Creating the Perfect Morning Routine

I’ve experimented with a ton of different morning routines. Waking up super early, waking up without an alarm, exercise, learning, work and many others.

In all these different experiments, I’ve found that there isn’t one perfect routine that will make you rich, ripped and happy overnight. Instead, there’s different routines for different purposes, and so I tend to think about my routines as trying to match my most important goals of that moment.

If I’m really focusing on health and fitness, starting with exercise or putting in the time to eat a healthy breakfast might go first. If I’m working like crazy, getting straight to work on my most important tasks may be better than cluttering up my morning with different tasks. Different goals, different routines.

Therefore, instead of suggesting one routine, I want to suggest six. These different routines have all served me during different parts of my life, and so you can see which feels like the best fit for you.

The Six Key Morning Routines

1. Exercise and Energy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This routine is simple: right when you wake up you go and exercise. Before eating breakfast, checking your phone and emails or watching some television—go out and move.

I’ve done this before with running, swimming and even just push-ups.

The first benefit of this is that it puts fitness in that all-important first slot of the day. If you’ve struggled with staying on a regular exercise schedule in the past, this can be a good way to make sure it is a priority.

Second, this habit can wake you up. Exercise can keep you alert and mentally functioning at your prime, when a coffee may only be able to slightly prolong your later-day crash.

Recommended for: If you struggle with grogginess, you’ve had a hard time fitting exercise into your schedule and if you want to make fitness your top priority.

2. Meditation and Stillness

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

Contrary to the first one, this starts with daily meditation. I’ve done this before with 30-minute meditation periods.

It’s important to do seated meditation and not do so lying down in your bed, or you’ll be likely to fall back asleep. I sit on the floor, not a chair, which is not terribly uncomfortable, but also a position that requires enough muscle tension that I’m unlikely to fall asleep.

I’ve found this helpful because it tends to leave me calm and focused. Useful if you expect to have stressful days ahead to start yourself off with a quiet mind.

I also find that one of the challenges of grogginess is keeping your eyes open. Meditation allows your mind to wake up without strain so by the time you hear the final gong you’re fully awake.

Recommended for: If you want to be calm and less anxious in your day, if you’ve wanted to make meditation a priority but haven’t had time, as an alternative if you don’t like exercise first thing in the morning.

3. Get to Work!

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

The key to productivity is just doing the work. This routine underscores this by making getting some work done your first priority, so that your first break is the chance to eat breakfast, shower, shave and do the normal routine you’d do in the morning.

I did this during the MIT Challenge. I even have old schedules I wrote on paper which had “6:55 – Wake Up,” “7:00 – Start studying,” written on them. I’d wake up, and in five minutes I’d be doing practice questions, listening to the next lecture or working on a programming assignment. Only after I did 30-60 minutes of this would I take a break to “get ready” to start my day.

This works because it not only maximizes your time, it shifts your productivity much earlier. You finish much earlier in the day and can enjoy a less cluttered evening without guilt that you’re slacking.

The second benefit is that you get to take a break when you need it. Too many people take their break before starting, so that when they have to work they can’t take a pause for fear of not having enough time to finish.

Recommended for: If you have important goals and projects that take a lot of time. If you expect to be working a lot and you’re worried you won’t have time to do everything.

4. Learning First

When I was planning my year-long trip to learn four different languages, the early morning was the only time my roommate (who went with me on the trip) and I had to do some pre-travel practice. 

Therefore, we woke up at 6am each day and did a half-hour of Pimsleur lessons before he got ready to go to work and I got up to start my day.

In other times I’ve done learning goals where I’ve read books, watched lectures, practiced skills or studied first thing. This is often useful for the same reason it’s useful for meditation and exercise: it puts something you struggle to schedule first thing in your day, so you won’t forget it.

Recommended for: When you want to work on an important learning goal but never find time.

5. Plan Your Day

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mental rehearsal is a key strategy elite athletes use to ensure performance. By imagining each movement vividly, they can perform better under pressure when the big event comes.

You can exploit a similar impact by planning out your day in the morning. Don’t just jot down some to-do items, but actually imagine working on them. What will be the complications? Where will you have gaps in your schedule that need filling? What will you need to focus on?

Doing this planning first thing in the morning can be a good way to prime your day for success.

Recommended for: If you have a hectic, busy schedule. If you want to focus your mind on work and productivity, but can’t start working right away.

6. Make Your Bed

Making your bed, brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, doing makeup, pressing your clothes and more are all little tasks that can put you in good form for the rest of your day. Such morning routines were pretty much expected a generation or two ago, but nowadays many people skip out on some of these steps as the culture has become looser.

An advantage of this more traditional routine is that in putting your house and appearance in order, you put your mind in order as well. As one admiral William H. McRaven put it, “if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

This approach can be taken on its own, or it can be synced up with one of the other two—say fifteen minutes for some key preparation activities followed by exercise, work or study.

Recommended for: Creating a sense of order and dignity in your day. Giving you a foundation of meticulousness and conscientiousness to approach your later tasks.

Add an Evening Routine

Morning routines are great for managing the first part of your day, but they also depend crucially on an evening routine to complement them. If you do decide to aim for an early rising schedule, you need an early-to-sleep routine to match it. Similarly, if you plan to work or learn first thing in the morning, you should plan out your day the night before so you know what to work on.

A good evening routine should minimize blue light (a good rule is to have no screens after 9pm), so that the melatonin circuit that controls your circadian rhythm can start to adjust for better sleep.

I often like to plan out my day ahead of time and either read a book or listen to an audiobook with the lights out for 20-30 minutes before sleeping to make it easier to doze off.

Matched to your goals a good routine is the foundation for success. It can help you become more productive, healthier and happier by tweaking at one of the most consistent and important points in the day.

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Writing tip Wednesday: “Be not afraid”

So, don’t make the mistake of not writing, not creating.

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The pro in procrastination does not make you a professional writer.

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June 9, 2020 · 9:39 pm

Monday morning writing joke: “Never alone”

There once was a writer named Stone

Who tried writing on his smart phone.

It started off fine

But then he got behind:

All the apps wouldn’t leave him alone.

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A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it

‘Like most other American systems and professions, delusions around meritocracy continue to pervade the writing world. ‘ Illustration: Julien Posture/The Guardian

There is nothing more sustaining to long-term creative work than time and space – and these things cost money


Let’s start with me: I’m not sure how or if I’d still be a writer without the help of other people’s money. I have zero undergrad debt. Of my three years of grad school, two of them were funded through a teaching fellowship; my parents helped pay for the first. The last two years my stipend barely covered the childcare I needed to travel uptown three days a week to teach and go to class and my husband’s job is what kept us afloat.

I got connections from that program. I got my agent through the recommendation of a professor. Nearly every year since I graduated from that program, I have been employed by them. The thing I’m most sure I had though, that was a direct result of my extraordinary privilege, is the blindness with which I bounded toward this profession, the not knowing, because I had never felt, until I was a grownup, the very real and bone-deep fear of not knowing how you’ll live from month to month. Other versions of this story that I know from other people: a down payment from a grandpa on a brownstone; monthly parental stipends; a partner who works at a startup; a partner who’s a corporate lawyer; a wealthy former boss who got attached and agreed to pay their grad school off.

Once, before a debut novelist panel geared specifically to aspiring writers, one of the novelists with whom I was set to speak mentioned to me that they’d hired a private publicist to promote their book. They told me it cost nearly their whole advance but was worth it, they said, because this private publicist got them on a widely watched talkshow. During this panel, this writer mentioned to the crowd at one point that they “wrote and taught exclusively”, and I kept my eyes on my hands folded in my lap. I knew this writer did much of the same teaching I did, gig work, often for between $1,500-$3,000 for a six to eight-week course; nowhere near enough to sustain one’s self in New York. I knew their whole advance was gone, and that, if the publicist did pay off, it would be months before they might accrue returns.

I did not know what this writer, who I thought was single, paid in rent, or all the other ways that they might have been able to cut corners, that I, a mother of two, could not cut, but even then, it felt impossible to me that this writer was sustaining themselves in any legitimate way without some outside help. I thought, maybe, when they said “write” they might be including copywriting or tech, as some others that I know support themselves.

I knew all these aspiring writers, though, heard this person say this and assumed that there was a way to make a living as a writer, that they thought this person was “making it” in ways they hoped one day to be. I don’t know this writer and don’t know how, actually, they lived. What I do know is, when the panel was over, I wanted to take the microphone back and say loudly to the students that what this writer said was, at least in part, a lie.

On Instagram and Twitter there are writers who “write full time” also. They post pictures of their desk or their pens and talk about “process”. Maybe, two years ago, they sold a quiet literary novel to an independent press. For my students, for all the people I see out there, trying to break in or through and watching, envious, I want to attach to these statements and these Instagram posts, a caveat that says the writing isn’t what is keeping this person safe and clothed and fed.

According to a 2018 Author’s Guild Study the median income of all published authors for all writing related activity was $6,080 in 2017, down from $10,500 in 2009; while the median income for all published authors based solely on book-related activities went from $3,900 to $3,100, down 21%. Roughly 25% of authors earned $0 in income in 2017.

I would argue that there is nothing more sustaining to long-term creative work than time and space – these things cost money – and the fact that some people have access to it for reasons that are often outside of their control continues to create an ecosystem in which the tenor of the voices that we hear from most often remains similar. It is no wonder, I say often to students, that so much of the canon is about rich white people. Who else, after all, has the time and space to finish a book. Who else, after all, as the book is coming out, has the time and space and money to promote and publicize that book?The median income of all published authors for all writing related activity was $6,080 in 2017

There are ramifications, I think, of no one mentioning the source of this freedom when they have it. There is the perpetuation of an illusion that makes an unsustainable life choice appear sustainable, that makes the specific achievements of particular individuals seem more remunerative than they actually are. There is the feeling that the choices that we’ve made outside of writing: who we married, whether or not we had children, the families we were born to, will forever hinder our ability to make good work.

When students ask me for advice with regard to how to “make it as a writer”, I tell them to get a job that also gives them time and space somehow to write; I tell them find a job that, if they still have it 10 years from now, it wouldn’t make them sad. I worry often that they think this means I don’t think their work is worthy; that I don’t believe they’ll make it in the way that they imagine making it, but this advice is me trying help them sustain themselves enough to make the work I know they can.

Like most other American systems and professions, delusions around meritocracy continue to pervade the writing world. Those of us who are not bolstered by outside sources, those of us who are but still struggle, and say it out loud, often run the risk of seeming whiny or ungrateful; maybe we worry we will just be thought not good enough. To be a writer is a choice, after all, and I continue to make it. But perpetuating the delusion that the choice is not impossibly risky, precarity-inducing, only hurts the participants’ ability to reconsider the various shapes their lives might take in service of sustaining it and them.

It allows a system that cannot sustain most of the producers of its products to continue to pretend it can.

  • Lynn Steger Strong is the author of the novel Want, to be released in July 2020

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The Single Reason Why People Can’t Write, According to a Harvard Psychologist

This common affliction is behind so much unclear and confusing writing in the world today.

Steven Pinker

Author and psychologist Steven Pinker. Getty Images


“Why is so much writing so hard to understand? Why must a typical reader struggle to follow an academic article, the fine print on a tax return, or the instructions for setting up a wireless home network?”

These are questions Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker asks in his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. They’re questions I’ve often encountered –and attempted to tackle– throughout my career as a business writer and editor. Whenever I see writing that is loaded with jargon, clichés, technical terms, and abbreviations, two questions come immediately to mind. First, what is the writer trying to say, exactly? And second, how can the writer convey her ideas more clearly, without having to lean on language that confuses the reader?

For Pinker, the root cause of so much bad writing is what he calls “the Curse of Knowledge”, which he defines as “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

“Every human pastime –music, cooking, sports, art, theoretical physics –develops an argot to spare its enthusiasts from having to say or type a long-winded description every time they refer to a familiar concept in each other’s company. The problem is that as we become proficient at our job or hobby we come to use these catchwords so often that they flow out of our fingers automatically, and we forget that our readers may not be members of the clubhouse in which we learned them.”

People in business seem particularly prone to this “affliction.” You could argue that business has developed its own entirely unique dialect of English. People are exposed to an alphabet soup of terms and acronyms at business school, which they then put into use in their day-to-day interactions once they enter the working world.

And what starts out as a means of facilitating verbal communication between people becomes the primary mode with which people communicate their ideas in writing, from email to chat apps to business proposals and presentations.

“How can we lift the curse of knowledge?” asks Pinker. “A considerate writer will…cultivate the habit of adding a few words of explanation to common technical terms, as in ‘Arabidopsis, a flowering mustard plant,’ rather than the bare ‘Arabidopsis.’ It’s not just an act of magnanimity: A writer who explains technical terms can multiply her readership a thousandfold at the cost of a handful of characters, the literary equivalent of picking up hundred-dollar bills on the sidewalk.”

“Readers will also thank a writer for the copious use of for example, as in, and such as, because an explanation without an example is little better than no explanation at all.”

Whenever I write a sentence that makes me pause and wonder about what it means, I assume that other readers might react in the same way. If a sentence is not clear to me, it might not be clear to others. It’s an approach that I recommend to anyone who is trying to improve his own writing.

Before hitting publish and sending your writing out to the world, it’s better to be honest with yourself about how much your reader is likely to understand a given passage or sentence. Before you commit your writing to print– or to the internet– take a few moments to make sure that what you write is clear and understandable by as many of your intended readers as possible.

As Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize-winning physicist, once wrote, “If you ever hear yourself saying, ‘I think I understand this,’ that means you don’t.”

Glenn Leibowitz

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